Community-based natural resource management How knowledge is managed, disseminated and used

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1 Community-based natural resource management How knowledge is managed, disseminated and used Enabling the rural poor to overcome poverty

2 Contents 1 Natural resource management targeting learning Planners and implementers of natural resource development projects must learn to learn and share knowledge from past experiences 4 Managing rainfall with tassa Rediscovering practical, low-cost soil and water conservation methods in semi-arid West Africa Niger 8 Cultural identity a force for change Cultural identity and pride driving forces in rebuilding livelihoods in a remote Andean community Peru 12 Research for development fruits of the forest Domesticating high-value trees for marketable products and income in West Africa Cameroon 14 Poor people prosper in an ecological hotspot Improving the livelihoods of communities that use slash-and-burn cultivation in an ecologically sensitive area India 18 Land for labour Solving the problems of local rice production when it can be cheaper to import The Gambia 22 Leases for fishers groups Empowering landless poor people whose livelihoods depend on fishing Bangladesh 26 Participation in irrigation rewards farmers Paying dividends participatory approaches to irrigation development United Republic of Tanzania 30 Tribal communities manage the rangeland Community-based approaches to improving and sustaining the livelihoods of pastoralists Morocco 32 Biogas an alternative to fuelwood? A solution to fuelwood shortages in rural communities China 34 Research for development solutions crossing frontiers Transferring cassava cultivars from Brazil to droughtprone areas of West Africa Brazil, Colombia, Nigeria 36 Tackling persistent poverty Some insights and the importance of partnerships and ownership Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela 40 Preventing land conflicts Providing step-by-step support in decentralizing the land administration system Madagascar 44 Targeting learning a key IFAD product Planning for the future can mean to learn from past experiences

3 Natural resource management Targeting learning Natural resources are the foundation from which rural poor people can overcome poverty. However, planners and implementers of natural resource development projects do not always profit from the lessons learned either information is lost or it is not easily accessible or changing circumstances may limit its value. Whatever the reason, learning from the past still makes sense. Knowledge does not wear out although it is sometimes difficult to find, synthesize and use. It is against this challenging background that IFAD has targeted learning as one of its key products. Poverty is still very much a rural problem. One in five of the world s inhabitants some 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, and 75 per cent of these live in rural areas. Their livelihoods depend on natural resources, their capacity to use and manage them effectively, and the institutional environment in which natural resource management strategies are designed and implemented. Rural poor people are not just the poor ; they have faces and names. They are real people: poor farmers, poor fishers, poor nomads and poor women producers. Overcoming poverty means individual and collective empowerment, strengthening productive and incomegenerating capacities and increasing opportunities. This requires a clear understanding of the activities of poor people and of the natural, social, economic and political environment in which they live. It also requires supportive policies, institutions, services and investment. IFAD s mission is to reduce rural poverty: enabling the rural poor to overcome poverty pervades its strategic framework for Its experience has demonstrated that secure access to natural resources and to the technologies to exploit them productively and sustainably are important steps in the process of poverty reduction. Indeed, one of the three core objectives of IFAD s strategic framework is improving equitable access to productive natural resources and technologies. Community-based natural resource management was the focus of over 80 per cent of the IFAD-approved programmes and projects for These programmes and projects addressed a wide range of natural resource development issues land, water, forests, rangeland, fisheries and rural institutions. Gender, governance, culture and partnership also assumed greater roles. Central to this process of development are the concepts of learning to learn and sharing knowledge. In this publication, IFAD shares its learning on community-based natural resource development. Twelve case studies from recent lending programmes and grants demonstrate how knowledge is managed, disseminated and effectively used by others. They show that people can learn to learn and that learning is crucial to reducing poverty and to meeting the development challenges ahead. Central to the process of development are the concepts of learning to learn and sharing knowledge.

4 Project areas Tribal communities manage the rangeland Morocco Managing rainfall with tassa Niger Land for labour The Gambia Tackling persistent poverty Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Research for development solutions crossing frontiers Colombia Research for development solutions crossing frontiers Nigeria Cultural identity a force for change Peru Research for development solutions crossing frontiers Brazil

5 Biogas an alternative to fuelwood? China Leases for fishers groups Bangadlesh Poor people prosper in an ecological hotspot India Research for development fruits of the forest Cameroon Participation in irrigation rewards farmers United Republic of Tanzania Preventing land conflicts Madagascar

6 4 Most farmers learned more by looking over the fence and copying techniques from other farmers.

7 Niger Managing rainfall with tassa There is no shortage of good ideas for conserving soil and water in West Africa. Researchers have developed many simple and useful technologies to harvest scarce rainfall for crops, but farmers have tended not to adopt them on a significant scale. For various reasons, farmers problems and researchers solutions have not connected. However, one idea is making a good connection. Tassa is a traditional soil and water conservation practice that is being revived and adopted at a surprising rate in Niger. Why is tassa special and what has made it successful? Farmers in semi-arid West Africa understand the value of water, how its lack limits crop production and how essential it is for survival. They must contend with unreliable rainfall and short, unpredictable rainy seasons. To sustain their livelihoods, farmers need good strategies for capturing and conserving rainfall and making the best use of it. In Niger The Tohoua region in Niger is a typical drought-prone area. It is hilly with fertile valleys, alternating with badly degraded plateaux. In the past, the valley bottoms were flooded regularly, bringing in fertile sediment. However, droughts have led to a loss of vegetation on the valley slopes, and water now runs off rapidly, causing gully erosion on the slopes and damage to fields downstream. Since the 1960s, several projects had intervened to protect the valley slopes and plateaux, but without much success. They tended to use methods unfamiliar to local farmers and ignored traditional techniques, even though the remnants of old conservation practices were still evident. 5

8 In 1988 IFAD funded a ten-year programme of soil and water conservation to reintroduce simple, replicable conservation practices. This was IFAD s first major natural resources management programme that addressed land-degradation issues in relation to poverty and drought. In the beginning there were implementation problems. Government staff had no experience with the proposed, simple technologies and wanted to continue the usual practices, even though these had failed in the past. However, in 1989 a study visit to Burkina Faso by 13 farmers, including four women, was the catalyst of a major change. The group visited the Yatenga region of Burkina Faso and made two discoveries. The first was that farmers carried out their own soil and water conservation without the need for incentives such as food-for-work. The second was that planting pits used extensively and successfully in Yatenga to rehabilitate degraded land (known in that region as zai), looked very much like their own traditional planting pits used in the past (and known in the Tohoua region as tassa). Tools-for-work not food-for-work In Burkina Faso, there were no incentives such as food-for-work to encourage farmers to undertake soil and water conservation work. In Niger, the situation was quite different. A long tradition existed of offering gifts or incentives to farmers involved in bund construction and other conservation measures. The IFAD programme broke with this tradition and adopted a policy of providing food-for-work only in drought years, when harvests failed. At other times, conservation efforts were rewarded with new community infrastructure such as classrooms for the school or a village well. This new approach to incentives required careful explanation, but villagers gradually accepted it. Zai reminded farmers of tassa The zai pits in Yatenga were a low-cost (some US$8 per hectare), low-maintenance method of conserving water in the field in small hand-dug pits, some cm in diameter, cm deep and 8 metres apart. The removed earth was placed on the downstream side of the pit to form a small ridge and thus retain more water. The bottoms of the holes were covered with manure to provide nutrients and enhance water infiltration and retention. When it rained, the holes filled up with water and farmers planted millet or sorghum in them. On returning home, some of the farmers decided to revive tassa. They rehabilitated 4 hectares of land, including one field next to a main road so that people traveling by would see the impact. The results were so impressive that the following year tassa use increased to 70 hectares. This was a drought year and only those farmers using tassa got a reasonable harvest. Over the next few years, tassa was instrumental in bringing a total of 4,000 hectares back into production. In surveys, farmer cited several reasons for this rapid uptake: doubling of yields, rehabilitation of barren land, easy maintenance and easy weeding and thinning. 6

9 For further information Special Country Programme ( ) Hubert Boirard Country Programme Manager Western and Central Africa Division Programme Management Department, IFAD Via del Serafico, Rome, Italy Tel.: Tassa revived Today tassa is again an integral part of the local farming scene. The technique has spread at a surprising rate, adding an additional 2-3 hectares per year to some holdings. It has even spawned a new industry of young day labourers, who have mastered the technique and, rather than migrating to find work, tour the villages working for local farmers. Interestingly, the initial programme appraisal mission did not list tassa as an option to promote among farmers. Preference was given instead to promoting contour stone bunds and demi-lunes more expensive forms of in-field soil and water conservation promoted by researchers. These are also useful techniques and were adopted by some farmers, but not to the same extent as tassa. The extension workers promoting tassa were also able to provide tools and training. However, most farmers did not wait and went ahead on their own. It seems they learned more by looking over the fence and copying techniques from other farmers. Tassa may not be rocket science, but it has already contributed to mitigating agricultural risk and improving household food security for many impoverished families in Niger. The technique is now being promoted beyond Yatenga in Burkina Faso and is being introduced in Cape Verde. Why it succeeds Three key factors have contributed to the success of tassa: an action-research approach that identified and assessed local practices, facilitated cross-regional learning, encouraged farmers to watch what their neighbours were doing, let farmers choose without added incentives and supported them in finetuning their preferred options a simple, cheap, traditional technology that produced immediate results, could be integrated into existing cropping systems, and was easily replicated using local labour a technology that could be adapted to suit the changing local context 7

10 8 Project staff did not ask what problems farmers had, but rather what they wanted to do and how they wished to do it.

11 Peru Cultural identity A force for change Terraces farmed by poor families on the remote hillsides of the high Andes are highly vulnerable to the impacts of soil erosion and land degradation. Farmers had a long and knowledgeable history of ancient natural resource management practices, but over 500 years much of this had been lost and the terraces were abandoned. The past 13 years have seen this process reversed. Three IFAD projects have empowered communities to rebuild their livelihoods based on natural resources and to restore their lost knowledge using the communities cultural identity and pride as driving forces for change. Peru s national strategy for conserving the country s natural resources works on two levels: a macrolevel focusing on watershed planning, which integrates the management of land and water resources; and a microlevel, which encourages small communities to take responsibility for developing and sustaining the natural resources on which their livelihoods depend. The latter represents a shift in policy from traditional supply-driven services, which focus on infrastructure and technology, to an approach that empowers farmers as the motivators of development by meeting farmer demand for investment and support services of their own choosing. This is the very essence of three IFAD-funded projects, the first of which began in 1993 in the south-eastern and south-central regions of Peru. Most of the country s rural poor people live in this area, in which natural resources have deteriorated to a critical level. Project staff did not ask what problems farmers had, but rather what they wanted to do and how they wished to do it and each has effectively applied lessons learned in the previous project, shifting from supply- to demand-driven service management by communities. 9

12 Reviving ancient practices Most of the cultivation practices of the region s hillside terraces date back to pre- Colombian times. Although much of the knowledge and skills had been lost over the centuries, one small community managed to keep them alive and serve as the source for their reintroduction. Water is distributed among terraces of varying sizes (from 100 to 2,000 m 2 depending on the gradient of the mountain). Stone walls of up to 4 metres in height contain packed soil, which is planted with maize and fodder for livestock. Some terraces are irrigated. This requires considerable skill to avoid saturating the soil profile, which can lead to the collapse of the walls. Most women in the community have acquired the skill of judging when the soil profiles are sufficiently watered, and they use composturas a long-forgotten, zig-zag furrow irrigation system. The strategy The Management of Natural Resources in the Southern Highlands (MARENESS) Project used farmer-to-farmer training to bring about technological change and increase the capacity of farming communities to undertake their own development activities. Innovative means were used to disseminate knowledge and skills, but they were soundly based on the traditional values of the community. Farmers needed support during this process, so well-respected local craftsmen and women were trained to provide advice on cultivation practices, run on-farm trials and disseminate information. Short-chain market linkages were also established to connect rural production to urban demand for produce. The local mining community also proved to be a good market. Many of these features may be commonplace in projects in other developing countries, but in Peru they were driven by three unique and innovative ingredients. Pacha Mama Raymi Pacha Mama Raymi was the most important one. It literally means Festival of Mother Earth, but in this context it refers to a community-managed programme of experimentation and information on new technological practices for natural resource management, agricultural production and living conditions. It differs from other programmes of this kind by drawing upon Andean cultural, mythological and religious traditions related to cultivation, and it uses terms that have special meaning for the communities. It particularly exploits their competitive nature. Competitions have always played a strongly cohesive role among Andean communities, and regular competitions were organized between individuals and between communities. These provide an opportunity for farmers to show off their newly found skills. Substantial cash prizes are offered to the winners up to US$20 for a household and US$3,000 for a community and awarded at the annual Festival of Mother Earth, where the spirits are thanked for the harvest. The competitions are serious affairs and although the prize money is significant, the sums invested by farmers to enter the competition are also considerable. On some participating farms, production has doubled and even tripled. Communities now consider it a great honour to participate, and competitors are respected within their communities. The impact on production and livelihoods has been considerable. It has improved social cohesion among communities and greatly enhanced the dissemination of resource management techniques. The competitions are the initial impetus that gets others involved; then the concrete results of increased production take over as the main motivation. 10

13 For further information Promotion of Technology Transfer Project to Peasant Communities in the Highlands ( ) Management of Natural Resources in the Southern Highlands Project (MARENASS ) Development of the Puno-Cusco Corridor Project ( ) Roberto Haudry de Soucy Country Programme Manager Calle Daniel Carrion, San Isidro, Lima Republica del Peru Tel.: Talking maps Talking maps support Pacha Mama Raymi. This is a planning tool that also enjoys wide social acceptance among Andean farmers. The maps are a means of focusing households and communities on their farmland and economic activities at three levels the past, the present and the future using symbols such as crafts and birth-to-death rituals. They evoke feelings and emotional attachments to the land and natural resources and enrich the community s oral tradition. Each year communities use the maps to develop community action plans and make collective decisions in a truly participatory manner that strengthens household and community interests. It is the coming together to talk about the community s future that is the true strength of the maps. Cash prizes at the festival for the best maps offer an additional incentive. Contrato de donación con carga In most aid-supported projects, funds are administered by either the Government of Peru or the project itself. In this case, however, the responsibility for public funds was consigned directly to community organizations, using a regulatory instrument called a contrato de donación con carga. This represented more than just a legal relationship between provider and recipient. It created an alliance and trust between the state and the community that enabled the two to work together in close cooperation a win-win situation. A contract was drafted between the project and the community, and a bank account was set up to receive the funds. This had the added benefits of establishing a firm relationship with the banks and of involving communities in civil society and the formal economy. Regaining ownership The projects successfully fostered widespread use of technologies that formed part of the shared cultural heritage of the farmers, but had been long forgotten. As a result, some 20,000 families have now moved from subsistence farming to a position of increased food security and production surplus, which has enabled many to increase their financial and physical assets. They have assumed ownership of the project and, with it, an increased sense of responsibility for something that is theirs already: the terraces, houses, water and pastures, as well as a labour-intensive technology that produces high returns with little or no external input. Above all, they have assumed ownership of community-friendly activities that involve technologies within their reach rooted in their culture and ancestral practices. The project s sustainability depends largely on this concept of regaining ownership. This suite of projects was a useful pilot for the Government s poverty reduction programme, and scaling out is in progress through the National Compensation and Social Development Fund. The success of an approach that respects cultural identity and traditional values is further demonstrated by its uptake in other sectors in Peru, such as the Ministry of Transport, and in other programmes in other countries, such as the joint technical assistance fund of IFAD and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Nicaragua and projects financed by the European Union in Chile and Guatemala. 11

14 Research for development Cameroon Fruits of the forest Wild, uncultivated fruit trees and medicinal plants have long provided smallholders on the margins of tropical forests with food and medicine and, in more recent times, with income-earning resources. However, excessive logging and slash-and-burn agriculture have reduced the number of useful trees, and smallholders are being impoverished. Domesticating high-value tree species to produce marketable forest products is one way of strengthening this source of income and of improving the nutritional value for rural poor households. It is also helping restore the region s biodiversity. West Africa s tropical moist forests are rich in biodiversity. Cameroon, alone, hosts 14,000 species of plants and 3,500 different tree species. Many resource-poor farmers living at the edges of forests have relied mainly on cocoa and coffee for their incomes. However, the volatile nature of international market prices has led many to diversify into collecting and marketing the fruit, nuts and bark from wild trees. This livelihood, too, is now under threat, as population pressure has led to increased forest clearing to make land available for cultivation a process exacerbated by logging. 12 Even though smallholders cause some of the damage through shifting cultivation, most of them recognize the economic, nutritional and ecological importance of indigenous fruit and medicinal trees. For this reason, they have tended to preserve those trees that were once part of the forest and are now part of their newly cleared plots. This mixture of annual subsistence crops and perennial tree crops has enabled smallholders to diversify their sources of income a bag of bush mango, for example, may fetch three-to-four times the income of an equivalent bag of cocoa or coffee.

15 For further information Diversification of smallholder farming systems in Western and Central Africa through cultivation of indigenous trees (Technical Assistance Grant No. 456) Zac Tchoundjeu Principal Scientist, Tree Domestication Regional Coordinator, African Humid Tropics Region World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) P.O. Box , Yaounde, Cameroon Participatory tree domestication The practice of preserving useful trees on the farm is now being transformed into a formal cropping system. Researchers recognized an opportunity and are working with farmers to select and mass-produce the most productive trees for planting on small farms a practice that has become known as participatory tree domestication. The environment benefits as well the trees protect topsoil and help restore biodiversity. In 2000 IFAD provided a three-year grant to the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) to support this work in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Nigeria. ICRAF s role was to increase the incomes of rural communities and the resilience of their livelihoods by cultivating and domesticating indigenous fruit and medicinal trees and developing a strategy for marketing the produce. Farmers and researchers jointly selected several species for investigation kola nuts, African plum, bitter kola, bush mango, yohimbe and red stinkwood (both have medicinal bark) and essessang (a condiment). Researchers listened to farmers to understand the role of these trees on small farms, as well as their cultivation needs. Surveys established desired patterns, densities and diversity of trees in farmers fields, and demonstration plots showed farmers how different trees performed in different cropping systems. Germplasm was collected from those trees considered to be both high in economic value and important to biodiversity conservation. In all, more than 9,000 plants of different species were collected and raised in 16 nurseries in pilot villages more than double the planned number. Smallholders are realizing that tree domestication can bring quick returns. Early fruiting is already being achieved on some African plum and bush mango trees, only two to three years after planting. Surveys undertaken in the four countries revealed a potentially good market for the tree products, but distribution and commercial channels were needed in order to connect smallholders to the market. For their part, smallholders needed additional capacity to cope with both tree domestication and the marketing of their produce. These capacities were developed by training technicians from NGOs, extension services and communitybased organizations, and through farmer-to-farmer visits. Pamphlets, technical sheets and posters summarizing the main findings of the grant project were disseminated to share the knowledge gained. Spreading the benefits The project demonstrated that collaboration between researchers and farmers can produce a win-win situation for both farmers and the environment. It produced a robust, yet simple technology, low in cost, and well-adapted to communities living on the margins of forests and has already led to a second phase designed to introduce the benefits of tree domestication to many more families. IFAD is also using this approach in its loan projects in Cameroon, but the potential for scaling out to other countries and ecosystems is considerable. 13

16 14 Having instilled a sense of confidence in communities, local organizations are now seen as a means of breaking with the past.

17 India Poor people prosper in an ecological hotspot North-east India is a region renowned for its rich biodiversity, with many rare and endemic species. It is also home to many remote and vulnerable tribal communities that rely on slash-and-burn cultivation (jhum) for their basic subsistence. Population pressures are reducing regeneration cycles from ten years down to three in some cases. So is it possible to improve the livelihoods of these communities and at the same time protect and sustain this ecological hotspot? Poverty in India is essentially a rural problem, with almost one third of the country s population living on less than a dollar a day. In the states of Meghalaya, Manipur and Assam three of the seven states in north-east India many poor and vulnerable people belong to tribal communities in small, isolated villages in the mountainous landscape. With their own cultures and languages, the communities tended to be closely knit, having strong traditional institutions that usually excluded women from participating in village affairs. Over the past 150 years, however, successive waves of migration have rapidly changed the region s social complexion. They have reduced traditional tribal groups to minorities in some areas and fuelled an upsurge of feeling against outsiders. Most communities rely on the cultivation of wetland rice in the valley bottoms, together with other crops grown on terraces in the foothills. They practise jhum a long-established form of shifting cultivation. Land is cleared by slashing and burning in order to grow one or two crops. Traditionally, farmers moved on to another area and left the land for up to ten years to recover its fertility naturally. 15

18 Some people argue that jhum is well adapted to the local climatic conditions and terrain and that clearing small patches of forest with long fallow periods can enhance the biodiversity of the landscape. Others, however, blame jhum for loss of forests and productivity, soil erosion and desertification. This view is reinforced by the increasing population pressures that have forced farmers to reduce the recovery cycle from ten years down to five, and in some cases even to three. Rich and poor In sharp contrast to the poverty of the rural population, the region is renowned for its rich biodiversity. It is one of only two areas in India classified as an ecological hotspot possessing rare and endemic species. However, increasing jhum cultivation and indiscriminate mining of forest resources are threatening this reservoir of biodiversity. This has led to jhum becoming an undesirable farming practice and an unsustainable livelihood system for the majority of households. It was essential to restrict jhum and the felling of forests in order to protect the region s unique ecology. A nine-year, IFAD-funded project is focusing on improving the productivity of former short-cycle jhum plots through changes in crop mix and agronomic practices and by encouraging farmers to plant permanent plantation crops. It is also introducing alternative sources of income, such as forestry, agroforestry, livestock, fisheries and non-farm enterprises. Involving communities The project s approach was to involve communities as a whole and to empower them to take responsibility for the changes by offering financial and technical support. Natural resource management groups (NaRMGs) were formed within village communities to facilitate the process, and by 2004 nearly 40,000 households in 867 villages had mobilized almost 1,000 groups. NaRMGs proved to be effective in initiatives requiring community action, such as fishing, aloe vera and passion fruit plantations, and village-level support services for managing and maintaining springs. The provision of drinking water to over 400 villages and the construction of over 12,000 latrines not only reduced domestic drudgery for women and improved household hygiene, but also served as incentives to bring about change in community attitudes and behaviour. Community-based, biodiversity conservation areas were established across the three states. It was envisaged that these would eventually be converted into community forestry areas to enable households to sustainably harvest timber and other forest products. In 2005, after six years of project activities, there were signs that this was beginning to occur. Many NaRMGs were taking on the wider responsibility of conserving and managing the natural resources on which their members livelihoods depend. NaRMGs have initiated adult education programmes, and this has led to a wider awareness of the need for education, especially for girls. The groups have also been instrumental in transferring land belonging to tribal chiefs and private landowners to community ownership. In the Senapati district, for instance, the village chief agreed to donate 458 hectares of land to the local NaRMG. 16

19 For further information North Eastern Region community resource management project for upland areas ( ) K. Moses Chalai Sympli Building, 1st Floor Near Law College, Malki-Dhankheti Shillong Meghalaya, India Tel.: Mattia Prayer Galletti Country Programme Manager Asia and the Pacific Division Programme Management Department, IFAD Via del Serafico, Rome, Italy Tel.: Reducing dependence on jhum On the home front, some 18,000 households have developed gardens. This has reduced their reliance on jhum and has improved household food security. Whereas families would normally travel up to five hills away from their homes to find suitable jhum areas, the change to homestead gardening has reduced this to just half a hill. Women in the communities have started other activities to move away from jhum. Some 2,000 self-help groups (SHGs) support alternative income-generating activities by providing loans to women for such enterprises as soybean cultivation, bee-keeping and duck and goat breeding. Though some are still in need of support from the project, there is a good gender balance in all NaRMGs. This is surprising in such traditional communities. The status of women has improved through social mobilization and the establishment of SHGs, which have promoted savings, investment and income generation. Communities have begun to accept women s participation, their changing role in the household and their inclusion in NaRMG decision-making. Building confidence in the future Less tangible is the change taking place in the mindset of the people. NaRMGs and SHGs have instilled a sense of confidence in communities, and the groups are now seen as a means of breaking with the past. The project is creating a solid foundation on which people can build a sustainable future for both themselves and the unique ecological environment on which they depend. 17

20 18 Combining a labour force of women without land with landowners without labour produced a win-win situation.

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